I initially wanted to post a picture up of Aunty Judy. But the one I had was too formal, too posed. I didn’t like it. I don’t have too many photos of her, or with her. I have a couple of her on video at family gatherings, but candid ones.
I grew up seeing Aunty Judy every Sunday. I call her Ji Kou, which means 2nd Aunt in my father’s Teochew dialect. She never married. But she treated us like her own, especially my cousins Ying and Yan whom she lived with, together with our paternal grandfather.
Eventually, we all grew up and Ji Kou also moved into an apartment of her own. She was never one to hoard, so it was kept very open spaced, very neat and tidy, very meticulous, just as she was. And in our haste to pursue life, we – I, didn’t spend as much time as I should have, could have, with her.
On occasion, I would invite her out for lunch with some of my other aunties, her sisters. Every Christmas, she would come to our home with the rest of the family to celebrate and have Christmas dinner. And just this Lunar New Year, she was her vibrant, active self.
I never thought to spend more time with Ji Kou, namely because she seemed to keep herself busy with yoga classes, and short trips to Genting with her friends. She watched her diet and in her late 60’s, still looked 15 years younger. (Yes, we’ve all heard the saying ‘Asians don’t raisin’. Quite true, especially for Ji Kou.)
Ji Kou taught my cousins and I to be more ladylike. She taught us manners. She taught us to not depend on men because we are awesome as we are. And she did this in ways that still puts a smile to my face when I think back on her words.
“Don’t sit with your legs open or someone might shoot an arrow in between and it will be very painful!”
“Don’t eat with your mouth open or the flies will go in!”
“Finish every grain of rice on your place or your boyfriend/husband will have lots of pimples!”
“You don’t need your boyfriend to carry your bag for you! I see all those men carrying small handbags, you don’t think they look silly?! If you cannot carry your own bag then don’t bring one out!”
“Don’t make so much noise with your cutlery against the plate, it’s very rude!”
I remember all these words of wisdom of hers. And I honestly believe that they did have an effect on how I behave and act. Perhaps, in a comforting way, that’s a little piece of her that I will carry with me as long as I live. And if I pass them on to my children, then she’ll kind of live on through them.
I know that death is a part of life. And Ji Kou is now in a place where there is no suffering or hurt or pain. I just wish that when she went, that she wasn’t alone. But she was. And my uncle only found her about a week later (according to the coroner’s report). Knowing this breaks my heart. I hope that she was at peace when she took her final breath. And I hope that she knew – knows that she is loved and missed, by all her brothers and sisters, and all her nieces and nephews who she watched grow up.